North Lee Water Assoc. members warned

By Emily Le Coz

TUPELO – North Lee County Water Association directors can’t withhold records from members or serve more than five-year terms, and they can be removed from office for abuse of power, according to a letter they received today by Northern District Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presley.

Presley sent the four-page letter to each of the association’s eight directors after widespread complaints of the board’s actions from members, and in light of a Daily Journal investigation last week that alleged wrongdoing.

The letter urges board members to follow state law pertaining to their duties and warns them that if they don’t, his office will hold them accountable.

It also asks directors to allow members to speak and ask questions at Tuesday’s annual meeting instead of requiring them to submit a request to do so 10 days in advance.

The annual meeting is the association’s designated time to elect board directors. It starts at 7 p.m. and will be held at the North Lee office, 1004 Birmingham Ridge Road.

“Mississippi law is clear that your duty as board member is to act within the best interest of NLCWA,” Presley wrote. “No purpose at all, will be served by any attempt of the board to delay answers to members’ questions as they pertain to the operation, management and stability of NLCWA.”

Presley also notes that state law limits water association directors’ terms to no more than five years. But North Lee County Water Association Directors serve seven-year terms. This must be corrected, Presley said.

And if at least 10 percent of the association’s roughly 4,400 members allege that directors are “engaged in fraudulent or dishonest conduct, or gross abuse of authority or discretion, with respect to the corporation,” the chancery court can remove those directors.

Presley told the Daily Journal on Monday that the Public Service Commission will send two of its investigators and its attorney to the meeting Tuesday.

“We’re going to have a presence,” he said.

Sections of the state law are attached to the letter, and a copy of the entire document was sent to state Attorney General Jim Hood, state Auditor Stacey Pickering, Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann, state Department of Health interim Director of Environmental Health Keith Allen, Mississippi Rural Water Association CEO Kirby Mayfield and others.

emily.lecoz@journalinc.com